A Kenya National Union of Teacher (KNUT) official in Tana River County has stirred up controversy after saying pregnant school girls should not be allowed to continue with their studies.
Tana River KNUT Branch Executive Secretary Michael Babwoya said Friday that most school girls, though still minors, willingly engaged in sexual activities, and that allowing them back in the schools would negatively influence other girls.
“We have found out that many young girls willingly enter into illicit relationships with men and boys, and they are likely to influence other girls if they are allowed back to school after becoming pregnant,” he said.
Speaking to journalists in his Hola office, Mr. Babwoya said only rape victims and girls rescued from forced marriages should be given consideration as denying them access to education would be subjecting them to double punishment.
“If we want to stop the menace of girls giving birth while doing examinations, we should ensure that school girls are students and not women,” he said adding, “Taking pregnant or lactating girls back to school encourages impunity among girls.”
He urged managers of boarding schools to ensure all girls are tested for pregnancy on opening and closing days, and told parents to take keen interest in their children’s affairs so they do not engage in sexual activities during holidays.
“Any girl found to be pregnant should be expelled from school and not allowed back, unless it is proved that it happened by accident – either they were raped or forced to marry – and even these should not be allowed back till after giving birth,” Babwoya said.
He said sex offenders against children, and parents and suitors who force underage girls to marry, should be punished severely in accordance with the Sexual Offences Act.
The teachers’ defender at the same time called for the amendment of the Children’s Act to give parents and teachers more say in their children’s discipline, noting that the law as it is had rendered parents and teachers helpless.
“The Children’s Act and advocates of the rights of girls have rendered parents and teachers toothless. Children now know they can do anything and get away with it,” he said.
Babwoya however did not say what should be done to school boys who impregnate school girls or those in relationships with older women commonly known as Sugar Mummies.
His thoughts however resonate with those of Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli, who kicked off a storm at the beginning of his term by saying no girl who becomes pregnant would be allowed back to school doing his (Magufuli’s) presidency.
County Education Director Gitonga M’Mbaka said the number of girls in the county were sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations while heavily expectant.
M’Mbaka said that eight KCSE candidates were not sitting the examinations, as six had absented themselves while one was involved in an accident a day before the beginning of the tests and is under intensive care at the Garissa County Referral Hospital.
“One candidate in one of our schools did not avail himself for the exams on Monday and Tuesday but appeared on Wednesday. Such a candidate cannot be graded because he missed some of the compulsory subjects such as Mathematics and English,” he said.
He was speaking during a meeting of the County’s National Government Service Delivery Coordination Committee at the Tana River County Commissioner’s boardroom.
He said that one boy was sitting his papers at the King’ong’o GK Prison in Nyeri where he was remanded after denying an undisclosed charge.
By Emmanuel Masha